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Rent This Instead: A Better Ed Helms Raunchy Comedy (that isn’t “Hangover”)

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

“Vacation” is a gross, dumb disappointment. If you want to see Ed Helms in a much better raunchy comedy, try the neglected gem Cedar Rapids. Helms plays a mild-mannered, small town insurance guy who is tapped at the last minute to go to the “big city” trade conference in Cedar Rapids, where he is exposed for the first time to all kinds of bad behavior. The entire cast is outstanding, including Anne Heche, John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Sigourney Weaver. It is everything “Vacation” is not — smart, funny, and full of heart.

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Neglected gem Rent This Instead

On DVD This Week

Posted on June 20, 2011 at 7:45 am

DVD pick of the week: The Adjustment Bureau is thought-provoking, exciting, and swooningly romantic. Writer/director George Nolfi takes on the biggest questions of all — faith and doubt, fate and free will, God, love, the meaning of existence — with an absorbing story about who we are and why we do what we do.  I have a copy to give away, so send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with “Adjustment Bureau” in the subject line, and don’t forget your address.

Also out this week:

Cedar Rapids “Hangover’s” Ed Helms stars as a small town insurance guy who goes to the title “big city” for an industry convention and suffers some hilarious misadventures in this very adult comedy.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules The second in the series based on the wildly popular book for grade and middle-schoolers has our hapless heroes facing the humiliations of middle school.

“Happythankyoumoreplease” is a smart and endearing indie from writer/director Josh Radnor of television’s “How I Met Your Mother.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce1WFYB3t5k
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Contests and Giveaways For Your Netflix Queue New on DVD/Blu-Ray

Cedar Rapids

Posted on February 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

The day after they invented cities, they invented stories about what happens when country bumpkins arrive in them. The adventures of the innocent in the big, bad metropolis have been popular for centuries. In part that is because of that satisfying moment when the fool from the country ends up outsmarting the sophisticates from the city, the ones who think he is an easy mark. First, though, he has to identify which ones they are. And then he has to identify who he is, and recognize his own strength.

Tim Lippe (“The Office’s” Ed Helms) has spent his life in a tiny Wisconsin town, and almost all of his life working in the small local office of an insurance company. He started working there at age 16. He does not even let himself dream of the success and cosmopolitan elan of Roger Lemke (Thomas Lennon), the office star, who always brings home the coveted Two Diamond top award from the trade association’s annual meeting; he just sincerely wishes him well. But then Roger dies suddenly, and Tim has to take his place at the convention. The boss (Stephen Root) has no time to give him any instruction except to keep away from Dean Zeigler (John C. Reilly), a client poacher, and to win that Two Diamond award at any cost.

Tim takes off for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after carefully laminating all of his maps. It is only slightly less daunting and terrifying and utterly strange from him than a visit to Mars. He has never been on an airplane. And when a friendly young woman at the hotel doorway (Alia Shawkat of “Arrested Development”) asks him if he’d like to party, he assumes that it’s just the way they welcome people in the big city.

Surprise number one is that the black man in his hotel room is not a criminal, but his roommate, Ronald Wilkes (“The Wire’s” Isiah Whitlock Jr.), a very proper, buttoned-down insurance agent. Surprise number two is that there is a third roommate, none other than the decidedly unbuttoned Zeigler, a loud, hard-drinking, dirty joke-telling cynic and instigator of trouble. With Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), a very pretty agent from Nebraska who is intent on living it up while she’s away from home, Tim starts to learn some important lessons about his ability to say yes and his ability to say no. And his ability to figure out which is required in a wide variety of unprecedented, unexpected, and highly anxiety-producing circumstances.

As we saw with Helms in “The Hangover,” it is always a lot of fun to see a guy who is tightly wrapped let go — and then to get to see him deal with the consequences. The boss tells Tim that he once thought, “Here’s a kid who’s going to go places,” but then he never did. He goes places and then some in this story. Most of us spend a good bit of time coping with “impostor syndrome, worried that everyone will catch on to our inadequacy. There are a lot of moments of awkwardness and insecurity, but it is heartening to see Tim begin to learn that there is not as big a gulf between him and other people as he thought, even people of exalted rank, and to see him apply what he has learned to get a better understanding of what he thought he knew about the people back home. It benefits from a strong structure, astute depiction of the inevitable corny humor and cheesy networking activities of business gatherings, gutsy performances, and genuine affection for its characters. You will even have a whole new appreciation for insurance. Really. (more…)

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Comedy
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